New legislation in California could make it simpler for pet owners to find an apartment

California pet owners facing challenges finding a rental that accommodates their pets may find relief under proposed state legislation. This legislation aims to prohibit blanket no-pets policies and prevent landlords from charging extra fees for common pets like cats and dogs.

Advocates of the bill, which has passed a significant committee, argue that the scarcity of pet-friendly rental units is causing renters to either give up on finding suitable housing or surrender their pets to already overcrowded shelters. They believe the proposed legislation would also allow tenants with unapproved pets to be more open about their situation.

Andrea Amavisca, a renter in Sacramento, shared her struggle to find a place that would accept her 2-year-old cattle dog mix. After more than a month of searching, they secured a two-bedroom apartment by meeting with the landlord and paying an additional $500 for the security deposit.

“It’s really awful that there are these restrictions you have to take into consideration when making a personal life choice,” she said.

However, landlords are raising concerns, citing worries about repair costs, liability for potential dog bites, and nuisance issues that could drive away other tenants. They are also advocating for higher security deposits, which were limited to one month’s rent last year, to cover potential damage from pets.

“There are bad people and there are bad dogs, and our job is to screen that and make sure that we’re providing a safe environment for everyone,” said Russell Lowery, executive director of the California Rental Housing Association.

Assemblymember Matt Haney, a San Francisco Democrat and chair of the renters’ caucus, has proposed legislation that would not mandate all landlords to accept common household pets like cats and dogs. Instead, landlords would need to provide reasonable justifications, such as public health concerns, for denying a pet. They would be prohibited from inquiring about pets until after approving an applicant, and applicants would need to inform the landlord at least three days before signing a lease if they have a pet or plan to get one. If a landlord denies the pet, the applicant would then have the option to seek housing elsewhere. Additionally, landlords would not be allowed to charge additional rent or security deposit for pets. The bill, if passed, would apply to new leases starting on or after Jan. 1.

Some landlords, like Ivan Blackshear from Chico, believe that decisions about pets and deposits should be left to property owners and tenants to negotiate, rather than being mandated by politicians. Blackshear, who rents to tenants with cats, thinks that imposing such requirements could drive small landlords out of California and exacerbate the housing crisis.

Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, who represents parts of Los Angeles, shared his experience of being denied rentals because of his well-behaved Great Dane, Darius. He believes that simple barriers like pet ownership can lead to housing insecurity and homelessness if not addressed.

Animal welfare groups, including Ann Dunn from Oakland Animal Services, support the bill, citing a surge in pet relinquishments since Oakland’s eviction moratorium ended. Dunn notes that many people are now facing the difficult choice between housing and keeping their pets.

The bill is currently moving to the Assembly for a floor vote and, if approved, will proceed to the Senate for further consideration.

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